Perfectly Imperfect: Life Lessons from a Children’s Christmas Pageant

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This article is part of a series called Art Month. We'll highlight more on the intersection of faith and art during December.

Away in a Manger…

The children line up, donning halo headbands, wings, and white gowns made from pillowcases — little angels presenting the Christmas Story to the congregation. The soloists and instrumentalists are dressed in their Christmas best. With sweaty palms, frogs in their throats, and nervous pits in their stomachs, they stand on the stage awaiting to perform their song.

These costumes are not built for comfort. When my son was required to wear nice clothes for the Christmas Pageant (or any fancy occasion), he called dress pants “Grumpy Pants.” The dresses and skirts are often itchy. The dress shoes are not as comfortable on their little feet as the Crocs they prefer to wear. The angel costumes never fit quite right—they are either too big or too small. The halos are always crooked. The wings refuse to stay in place.

Silent Night, Holy Night…

Everything about the Children’s Community Christmas Pageant is imperfect and definitely not silent. Yet year after year, we invite grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and neighbors to come hear the story of the birth of a savior from the mouths of babes. Every year, we are blessed by the simplicity and the innocence of the telling of His birth. Every year, Jimmy shouts his songs lyrics. Hannah sings off-key. Billy still has cream cheese on his face from this morning’s bagel. The narrator messes up her lines. The instrumentalists miss some notes. The soloists switch up the verses to the songs. Perfectly imperfect.

Every year we are blessed by the story, His Story. Every year, we are reminded that so many things went wrong on that glorious night — that perfect night. They traveled long and far. They arrived with no lodging reservations. They had no place to stay. Mary gave birth in a less than desirable place. It was not sterile, private, or suitable for the arrival of the King of Kings. She laid him in a manger among the smelly animals. The angels appeared to dirty, tired shepherds in a field, who came running to see him. The wise men finally arrived and found Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, possibly years later. Were they late or right on time? That night was perfectly imperfect too.

But might the Christmas Pageant remind us of the true way in which we come before the Lord in praise and thanksgiving? We come as we are.

Go Tell It On the Mountain…

Why is the Christmas Pageant special? Why does it tug at our heartstrings? Usually when we show up to church for worship in our Sunday best, the band has rehearsed for several hours. Their voices are harmonious. They lead us in worship, lifting our spirits as we glorify our God together. The Children’s Christmas Pageant is not this. The voices are dissonant. There is nothing polished about it.

But might the Christmas Pageant remind us of the true way in which we come before the Lord in praise and thanksgiving? We come as we are. Sometimes, we make others uncomfortable, like “grumpy pants” or itchy dresses. Sometimes we are loud and overconfident, and our hearts and minds are not in the right place. Sometimes we just don’t look or sound good. We say the wrong lines. We forget the words. And yet, the Lord accepts our perfectly imperfect worship; in fact, He delights in it. Can it be that this is why we love the Children’s Christmas Pageant? Do we see ourselves in it? Do we relate to the way our Savior receives it and accepts us?

In Luke 18, we find the story of a Pharisee and a tax collector who went to the temple to pray.  The Pharisee was dressed and polished. The tax collector offered a plea: “Have mercy on me, a sinner” (v. 13). The Christmas Pageant reminds us of the latter.

Joy to the World…

This year, as you plan or attend your children’s Christmas program at your church, go with a fresh perspective — whether or not you have children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews. Where do you see yourself in it? If you notice the imperfections (and you will because there will be many) and find them endearing, could it be that the Savior and Redeemer finds you endearing? Could it be that He finds joy and takes pleasure in hearing your broken hallelujah?

O Come All Ye Faithful…

The Children’s Christmas Pageant is an opportunity to be led in worship in a different way than we are accustomed to. Matthew 19:14 says, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

Let the little children come. Take in and experience the pure and unrefined version of Christmas, and maybe by doing so, you will get a glimpse of how our Savior, born in Bethlehem long ago, came into this world in a way that seemed imperfect but was just as it should be. And maybe you will get a glimpse of what we look like when we come before Him: He finds us beautiful, and He makes us worthy.

Perfectly imperfect.

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Kelly Cissell

Kelly Cissell

Kelly Cissell serves as the Children's Ministry Director at North Wake Church in Wake Forest, NC. Originally from Brazil, she grew up in the Washington, DC area and currently lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband, Jason, and their three teenage darlings, Gabriel, Benjamin, and Kaitlyn. She is a self-proclaimed foodie who loves people, travel, and the beach.

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